Childcare, pensions, jobs: Your questions on the Budget answered

We’ve heard from the Chancellor, but how will today’s Budget affect you? Consumer Editor Chris Choi answers your questions.

Elli from Burton-on-Trent asks: I've worked for the NHS for 20 years. I have three small children under the age of six. After years of expressed pay, how are the government to encourage skilled workers to remain in the workforce when financially we're almost no better off due to the enormous childcare costs? 

ITV News' Chris Choi says: The main childcare headline from the Budget is new funding of 30 hours-a-week free for all children aged over nine months. It’s based on 30 hours a week for 38 weeks a year - essentially school term time. In general, you qualify if you are working at least 16 hours-a-week… but not earning more than £100,000 a year.You will be able to apply online in stages. The scheme is phased-in between April 2024 and September 2025. 

UK childcare costs are among the most expensive in the world - full-time day nursery fees for a child under two are on average £263 a week - more than £13,000 a year, according to the National Childbirth Trust.John from Crewe asks: I am over 60 and at risk of passing the lifetime allowance pension pot. I was concerned about the tax I was going to pay. What effect are the chancellor's changes going to have on me? 

ITV News' Chris Choi says: There has been a limit on the total value of private and company pension benefits you can build up without getting a tax charge (this does not include your state pension). That limit on an individual’s personal pension pot has been just over £1m.

The government hopes to get early-retirees to return to work. Credit: PA

And if you exceed that limit, you can end up paying 25% tax on pension income and 55% on lump sums.What’s changing is that the lifetime allowance is to be abolished. It means you can potentially carry on adding to private and company pensions for longer - so the government hopes it will help persuade people to keep working longer. There is still an annual upper limit on how much you can put into pension savings - that will be increased in April from £40,000 to £60,000. So, if you are lucky enough to have more than double the average annual salary to put into a pension fund - the tax regime just became more favourable for you.

Caroline from Enniskillen asks: We'd like to ask you what you are going to do for disabled people? My son Lee is disabled and depends on electricity for everything he uses. His bill last year was £2,500 and he needs this reduced. 

ITV News' Chris Choi says: We heard today that energy bill support will continue for an extra three months to the end of June. This is called the Energy Price Guarantee - limiting the average bill to £2,500 rather than it rising to £3,000 as originally planned - but this is still historically high (about double last Winter’s prices) and many households like Caroline and Lee are not average.

The other mainstream chunk of energy help is a £400 payment to all households - going into accounts in £67 instalments … but that ends this month and there was no extension in the Budget. (Incidentally, the figure is £600 for Northern Ireland - it’s higher there because of the high proportion of households using alternative fuels).There has also been a £150 one-off disability cost of living payment. There are low income means-tested cost of living payments and additional winter fuel payments this winter - and getting a benefits eligibility check would be a good idea - these are offered by organisations such as Citizens Advice and some charities.There are many reasons why disabled people and their families face higher energy costs - often more power is used to power vital equipment like hoists, wheelchairs, stair lifts and ventilators. More than 14 million people in the UK report some sort of disability.

Thabani from Brixton asks: I'm 73-years-old and living off my state pension with help from food banks. Is there any help for pensioners who are struggling with bills?

ITV News' Chris Choi says: The government will tell you there is help - you may say there’s not enough. The state pension will go up next month by 10% - which brings it to £10,600 for a full state pension….but food prices are still rising at about 17% a year - that’s the equivalent of an extra £811 on an average grocery bill, and food bank organisers have said they are at breaking point.The key thing for pensioners who are struggling with bills like Thabani is to find out whether you qualify for pension credit - because that in turn qualifies you for other help such as Housing benefit.

Pensioner poverty campaigners including Independent Age say inequalities in older generations are some of the most extreme in society with rich pensioners seeing their wealth rising but others seeing wealth fall. Some people may see today’s Budget measures as widening pensioner inequalities, thanks to the new tax break on private pension pots.  

Samantha from Southampton asks: I'm a single, disabled mum and I would just like to know what the government is going to do to help disabled people, especially those on PIP and ESA? 

ITV News' Chris Choi says: The help in this Budget appears to be focused on helping disabled people into work. The big reform that would apply to those claiming PIP (Personal Independence Payments) and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) is the proposed abolition of the work capability assessment.

There is to be a Universal Support programme – on which the government will spend up to £4,000 per person - to help you get into work. This essentially means disabled people can find work without losing benefits.

Jeremy Hunt says that with more Zoom and remote working from home, there are increasing opportunities for disabled people and he wants reforms to remove barriers.However, some people’s disabilities and family responsibilities mean getting a job just is not an option. In this case, the government will say there has been a Disability Cost of Living Payment of £150 for those on qualifying benefits which included PIP. 

Sean from Exmouth asks: I am a leisure centre manager. How will the money announced by the chancellor be distributed to leisure centres and what would be the timeframe?

ITV News' Chris Choi says: There are more than 800 public leisure centres with swimming pools in England and this is where this new £63 million pound one-year fund, announced by the chancellor today, will be focused. 

The money will be managed by Sport England and local authorities will have to apply for funding for pools that face immediate cost pressures such as maintenance or energy bills.

Sport England says the support is "significant" and will "offer a lifeline to many public leisure centres across England".

But as leisure centre managers like Sean know, this is a challenging industry to work in and one that has been hit hard by the rising cost of energy as well as chemical shortages.

The future of many public pools will depend on how quickly that money can get to those who need it most. 

Karen from Worcestershire asks: My son is looking for an apprenticeship but there is nothing about. No firms are investing in apprenticeships. How are people supposed to get experience?

ITV News' Chris Choi says: There’s some hope that the 12 more investment zones announced in the Budget could lead to more employment and possibly apprenticeships - but there’s no details yet and we don’t know where they’ll be.

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The Chancellor did announce the launch of a programme of what he called ‘returnerships’ for over-50s - to encourage those in that age group who have left the workforce back, but it sounds like this is unlikely to benefit your son.

The government is also increasing funding for the ‘Staying Close’ programme, which supports young people leaving care into work, but this will only apply to this group. 

Sharron from Warrington asks: I'm a public sector worker, I earn less than £30,000 a year and I have a mortgage and due to the cost of living crisis and no pay rise, we are all struggling. So I'm wondering what is going to be in this Budget that will help myself and my colleagues?

ITV News' Chris Choi says: Thousands of public sector workers are on strike today. union leaders are saying the Budget failed to address the issue of public service pay - in fact the Chancellor spoke of pay in the context of not adding to inflation which he says will come down - benefiting everyone.

He says these rising costs have been one of the factors behind the current pay claims. Today he said inflation will be 2.9% by the end of the year.